The history of Jewish communities across Europe as well as that of the Holocaust, is not only relevant to Jewish history, but also to European history as a whole! Understanding Jewish contributions to life in towns and villages across Central and Eastern Europe can help local people to form nuanced attitudes towards cultural heritage, which in turn will contribute to intercultural and interfaith dialogue in a multicultural and diverse Europe.
Alongside fencing, we therefore work closely with teachers and students as well as local historians, librarians and museum workers. Through our outreach programmes, participants learn about the history of their local Jewish community through Jewish cemeteries as a historical source. Focusing on local spaces emphasises not only the close connection between Jewish life and the current communities living there, but also serves to de-mystify cemetery sites.
This is of particular importance in the areas in which, in the wake of the Holocaust, Jewish communities no longer exist, as these cemeteries may be represent the last physical testament to Jewish presence. It is therefore vital that young people learn about this material heritage and how to place it in its larger historical and socio-cultural context.
Each year we reach hundreds of people during our educational activities under EU and German funding. The results of these programmes are a key component in building a sustainable future and ensuring the long-term protection of Jewish cemeteries.
Under funding from the Federal Republic of Germany, we visit our previously fenced Jewish cemeteries and encourage local communities to take ownership of their region’s Jewish heritage, and to take proactive steps to protect it in the future. Between 2016 and 2023, we have conducted around 50 events in person and online (due to restrictions imposed by Covid-19). We have a variety of events for different ages and groups of people:
Building on the success of work carried out during two previous EU pilot projects, the ESJF’s current EU preparatory action aims to raise awareness of Jewish cemeteries in local communities; spearhead educational projects with the goal of incorporating Jewish cemeteries into school curricula; and help empower local actors to preserve their Jewish cemeteries.
The project consists of a series of activities such as a Hackathon, Masterclasses for engaged leaders, creation of regional cemetery associations and an online forum for local and regional leaders, legal research and support to map issues around ownership and monument protection laws relevant for designing preservation projects for jewish cemeteries in each project country as well as webinars on legal issues and drone usage in heritage preservation and much more!
The grant is a joint effort by three leading Jewish heritage NGOs (ESJF European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative, Centropa, and the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, taking place across 7 European countries: Georgia, Hungary, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine. More information can be found here.